Sunday, August 10, 2014

Is a hard-life a matter of inherited luck?

The Sunday Review section of the New York Times has an interesting op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, “Is a hard life inherited?  This Oregon man represents the crisis facing working-class men”, link here. The story is set in Yamhill, Oregon, a farming community.

Kristof is critical of the “mean-spiritedness” in the political world, and a general lack of empathy for those who don’t grow up with their cognitive skills nurtured by doting parents.  He mentions the hollowing out of middle class blue-collar jobs, that provided incentives for some kind of stability, which is often gone.  Lower income people have less reason to believe that they have any real “chance” in a system they never learned to play, and tend to view the wealth of those “above them” as unearned and acquired by luck, without a real moral claim. He puts this in political terms somewhat – right wing opposition to Medicaid expansion, especially in the context of Obamacare, but it also has a personal dimension, a lack of empathy (his word) or a willingness to relate or include in some meaningful way.  How does this play out with libertarian hyperindividualism?  Maybe it doesn’t, but social and religious conservatives have to deal with the idea that “taking care of one’s own first” can leave and increasing number of people out in the cold.  That’s a bit of a moral paradox.

Wikipedia attribution link for map area of story. 

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